Putin as President for life — it’s real.
An Interview With Kirill Rogov
August 9, 1999 Boris Yeltsin appointed Vladimir Putin acting Prime Minister and declared him as his successor. 20 years later Putin himself and his “inner circle” feel for the scheme of extending his power. The analyst Kirill Rogov is the author of several studies on the transfer of power in non-democratic countries. We talked about what kind of model transfer will choose the leadership of Russia today.
“The despotic model is most beneficial to Putin”
— The reason for our conversation is the anniversary of the moment when Boris Yeltsin appointed Vladimir Putin acting Prime Minister and named him as his successor. This event and the subsequent Yeltsin’s surprise resignation and early presidential elections — whether all of these actions were called a democratic transition of power?
— No, of course. It was an example of one of the models of non-democratic transfer of power — model “successor.” Then it was used multiple times in different post-Soviet countries, successfully and unsuccessfully. This model has a complex, mixed nature, I call it administrative-electoral, because in this case we have the value of two groups of factors — how the use of administrative levers of power, and electoral participation.
How this model was implemented in Russia in 2000, played a significant role in Putin’s popularity, which he, being, on the one hand, Yeltsin’s successor, at the same time acquired as an alternative to the way the aging President. And that’s not very popular Yanukovych, when [Ukrainian President] Kuchma just tried to give him power in 2004, was defeated (then, during the so-called “orange revolution”, the results of presidential elections were annulled and re-vote, Viktor Yanukovich lost to Viktor Yushchenko — ed. ed.).
Boris Yeltsin and Vladimir Putinvladimir Rodionov / RIA Novosti
— You say: “According to the Constitution, Vladimir Putin has no right to again run for President in 2024. However, few believe that he will leave the political scene”. But why would Putin not to repeat the experience of Yeltsin and not just leave to retire under explicit guarantees of privacy and security? What is the fundamental difference of position of Yeltsin in 1999, Putin today?
— First of all, Yeltsin was not the same absolute ruler, he was much more limited in scope: he faced the opposition of the Parliament, rebellious governors, uncontrolled media. Under such constraints it is impossible to usurp power, without measure to enrich himself and enrich “their people”.
Second, Putin has far more “skeletons in the closet” and therefore much higher rates. Yeltsin and his entourage did not know, and Putin as Yeltsin’s successor, knows from her own experience, and his circle knows that any successor, samoutverzhdayas, sooner or later, initiates the review of the heritage “cartridge”, all of the agreements address several influential figures from the previous composition of the elite, just to show “who’s boss”. This is a very tricky scenario for Putin and the least likely (the latter is a striking confirmation of the arrest of ex — President of Kyrgyzstan Atambayev at the direction of his successor Zheenbekov — approx. ed.).
There is a palliative model of what makes Nazarbayev (voluntarily handed over the post of the President of Kazakhstan Tokaev his successor, but left the control of the security Council and the ruling party — approx. ed.). Putin and Nazarbayev actually learned a lot from each other, Nazarbayev learnt a lot from Russian design “tandem” of 2008-2012.
— In this case, means prozvanivaya article Volodina on strengthening the role of the state Duma in forming the government? Rumor has it that Putin could become Prime Minister of a parliamentary majority government with extended powers.
— Nonsense, one of stuffing, which will still be a lot. But the article says that there is a search option, and it is one of the areas of search — institutional model, in which Putin remains at the expense of redistribution of powers within the constitutional structure. Apparently, this model is not removed from the agenda and the presentation given by Volodin — one of the trial balloons in this direction.
— You indicate that the time of transit of power is critical for leader-autocrat, and for the top of the pyramid, and for the whole system: in some post-Soviet countries the government’s attempts to prolong its existence dishonest ways led to revolutions and the change of rulers. It is possible in this regard, the cancellation of the presidential election in 2024, for example, under the pretext of a state of emergency?
I don’t think so. As such, the election is not canceled, it is not necessary. Probably will happen the same in other countries with a “consolidated authoritarian”: the despotic model is preceded by the abolition of restrictions on the timing of the Board. First you need to remove the restrictions to stay in “office”, and then you in it and die. All the post-Soviet “consolidated avtoritarizma” — in the Central Asian countries, Belarus to hold a referendum about prolongation of presidential powers and abolished these restrictions. With the exception of Russia.
But my analysis of the situation and my findings suggest that the despotic model is to abolish restrictions on the duration of stay in “office” and stay in it as long as possible — the most reliable and convenient for the dictator. I believe that this model is the best and Putin. How realistic is it? In the last presidential election, Putin won with nearly 77% of the vote. With such results, and [President of Belarus] Lukashenko and [the former head of Kyrgyzstan] Akayev and [Azerbaijani President] Ilham Aliyev abolished limits on presidential terms. So for Putin it is a realistic option.
The difficulty is that once, in 2008, Putin has fulfilled the constitutional provision limiting the number of terms of stay in power, and thus gave the signal that she’s important to him and he admits it. Therefore, in order to lift restrictions, he needs strong arguments and they may appear if you break out some crisis — foreign or domestic. Then Putin will say: over our country faced such danger that I have to stay, and, exceptionally, we adopt the corresponding amendment emergency act of a constitutional nature, and further back to the usual two presidential terms. This is a negative, crisis scenario. Positive — to unite with Belarus and to lead new state transition.
“Putin has to trust the security forces rather than the wing “civil””
— So the crisis for the Kremlin not so much detrimental, how much is desirable?
— That’s it. Although the crisis that is unfolding, of course, unpleasant to the Kremlin, because this crisis is the mobilization of protest going on all over the country on different occasions. And this is absolutely unacceptable thing for the beginning of the transit. Hence such a nervous reaction to the Kremlin.
— Gross bureaucratic falsification of the atrocities, which dispersed the protesters in Moscow, lawless detention is the image of how will take place elections of the state Duma in 2021 and President in 2024?
— During the previous months, Putin tried to dampen the protests, and in Yekaterinburg, and in connection with the detention of Golunova — carefully enough. Power was compromised to bring down the protest wave and not allow it to grow. But in August, the government, as they say, ate a bit, making it clear that the protest is not the language in which they are permitted to talk, they are ready to suppress and, if the opposition will continue to “kindle”, it will only get worse.
Evgeny Feldman / Navalny.com
— Your words: “It is the security forces cannot maintain their position and personal safety at the end of the transition [of power in the hands of the new leader]”. Is it because the opposition is faced with the ferocity of angry law enforcers? Probably, they protect not only the power of the Kremlin but also their future?
— Of course. In a radically despotic regimes, the fate of the security forces, leaders of power groups really unenviable. On the one hand, they are the main force for the transfer of power, and on the other become victims of the new ruler, who seeks to establish itself by destroying those who brought him to power, that is, at that moment was stronger than him.
But we have a different picture. We are not just security forces, and the military oligarchy — security forces associated with large assets. 20 years ago they were nothing, then swiftly stepped “from rags to riches.” Now they are the rich class in the country, but are aware of the volatility of its assets and understand that they need to protect. They have something to lose and that the “fight”.
— So in our situation we can speak about the coincidence of interests of the authoritarian ruler and his security entourage?
— I think so. Strategies that are used against civil protests, both soft and hard, in my opinion, come from Putin.
Means, the position of the casing in Putin’s entourage is and will remain the most compelling?
— The probability of this is high. Although, if you think, for implementing stable transition to Putin in contrast to the need to strengthen the civilian wing to increase freedom of maneuver. I believe that after the presidential election, he meant that it is necessary to do so, he had a choice to strengthen the civilian wing in his administration. But he is apparently afraid to give him additional powers. The situation is that the more popular the security forces and trust accounts for them rather than wing “civil”.
“One of the “velvet” revolution is not enough, should be a series of performances”
— After reading your reports, come to the conclusion that the post-Soviet space, except the Baltic States, we see few examples of truly democratic change of power. What are the reasons? In historically developed orders? In the Soviet heritage?
The episodes of democratic change of power do happen. We see this in the last presidential elections in Ukraine. In 1994, Alexander Lukashenko, paradoxical as it may sound now, was the President of Belarus according to the results of democratic elections. It happens that the break model is undemocratic transit authority, this happened in Moldova, Ukraine, Kyrgyzstan, where, contrary to the intentions of the authorities, got a victory of the opposition.
But in General your observation is true. For most post-Soviet countries are characterized by several injuries. The first is the lack of strong parties in the process of formation of state institutions and, accordingly, excessively large role of the Executive of the coalition, which supersedes the political space. The second trauma of privatization, which took place in emergency mode, with poor legal registration, with a substantial abuse in the absence of public consensus. And the third injury, as a consequence of the first and second, very weak rule of law: corruption is rampant, property is not protected, procedures are violated all the time, and write “for themselves”. In this situation, the only way to protect their commercial interests, their ownership is the possession of administrative power and resource of the state. If we lose it, will come someone else and start redistribution of property. This problem is forcing elite groups to invent different schemes to transfer power so that she did not escape with the property from the hands of “his” coalition.
Today rules politically in Russia similar to what is happening in Europe 80-100 years ago, but in America, if we keep in mind the hard attempts of the state to suppress anti-war, anti-racist movement only half a century ago. Does this mean that we just need to wait to become “like the West”?
— The bastard institutions of democracy, which seemed to exist but in fact do not work, a weak rule of law, corruption — all it really took many countries. The question is — how much more society will suffer and suffer?
Those post-Soviet countries, which I call “competitive oligarchies” is Moldova, Ukraine, Georgia, Armenia, Kyrgyzstan, during the last 15 years has experienced seven “velvet”, “color” revolutions. This is a benign phenomenon — a mass non-violent civil protest, which leads to a change of government. Usually one revolution is not enough, should be a series of speeches to the elites began to understand that the discontented will not erase and you need to take a more rigid and strict rules of self-restraint and move to the new rules, to more complex structures of power, its a balance.
Security Council Meeting РФKremlin.ru
— Defining and revolutionary mood of the masses is the state of the economy, the income level? Or something else?
Economic factors certainly play a role, although not always unambiguous and straightforward. Seen here is what regularity. In the five above-mentioned post-Soviet countries “competitive oligarchy” resource rent does not play a significant role for the economy. Seven countries — Russia, Belarus, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan — represent a “consolidated autoritarisme”. It is characteristic that all of them, except Tajikistan, an economy with a rather serious share of resource rents. For Belarus this annuity is a special trade regime with Russia, for the rest — oil and gas.
— And how long the fate of Putinism promise resources accumulated due to the presence of resource rents?
— To make predictions — a thankless task, but I would like to draw your attention to the fact that Russia among the post-Soviet “competitive oligarchies” and “consolidated autoritarismo” a special place in the 90-ies Russia has developed more as a “competitive oligarchy”, while Putin, in 2000 and 2010, it has evolved into authoritarianism. At the same time in 90 years, oil was cheap, and the share of resource rents in GDP averaged 8%. And in the first decade of the XXI century, this share reached 18%, and it was during this period Russia has moved from one country group to another.
Now the share of resource rents in GDP is reduced and is 12-14%. This is enough for the stability of the existing political system. Besides already established authoritarian institutions which are able to bind and hold the situation. However, if the share of resource rents fall again below 10%, with high probability we will again see in Russia is something more like “competitive oligarchy.” This does not mean that we will never see her with a larger share of resource rents, but below 10% — almost certainly.
Read more about transfer of power, read the collective work “king of the hill. Undemocratic transfer of power in the post-Soviet space” and the report by Kirill Rogov, “New “Sovereign””.